The Ramos-Trump Exchange: GOP Candidate’s Muddled, Xenophobic Message

At an August 24, 2015, press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, would-be Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump parried questions by Spanish-language television network Univisión’s Jorge Ramos with a brief, disjointed and remarkably racist rant before having the long-time Mexican-American anchor ejected from the proceedings.

Trump did take the opportunity to quickly cite several trite anti-immigrant epithets, aided by having complete control of the microphone while Ramos’ responses were unrecorded and largely inaudible. And yet, soft-spoken but erudite Ramos’ unheard interjections were enough to stop Trump in his tracks, such that the latter careened between unrelated xenophobic allusions and boasts until he turned and summoned a member of his security detail to physically remove Ramos from the hall.

When Ramos was later to return to the press conference and be acknowledged by Trump, who ostentatiously permitted him to pose his questions anew, Trump again appeared confused and was unable to make a coherent response. This second abbreviated exchange was ended when Trump simply turned and began to speak to another reporter.

Notepad in hand, Ramos first began to speak after having raised his hand and then standing up. He asked Trump how he proposed to deport 11 million people from the United States. Instead of answering, Trump alluded to favourite racist postures of the far right when he said, “Wait your turn,” and “Go back to Univision.” Ramos persevered and asked how Trump intended to finance a wall across the Mexican border and justify the mass deportation of US-born children before Trump turned to direct a large man standing behind him to leave the podium and approach Ramos. The man quickly came face to face with Ramos, grabbing his shoulder and pushing him backwards out of the room. Ramos could be heard saying, “Don’t touch me. I am a reporter. I have a right to ask questions.”

In a video released by Univisión, Ramos was then accosted in the hallway by a male Trump staffer, who sneered, “Univision,” and said, “Get out of my country.” Ramos responded that he was an American citizen, to which the staffer said, “Whatever.” Later, a young woman who identified herself as another Trump staffer approached Ramos and asked if he would like to return to the press conference, admonishing him to “wait until he was called upon…. I’m sure he’ll call upon you.”

Back at the conference, Trump said, “Good to have you back.”

Ramos began to speak. “You cannot deport [11 million] people. You cannot deny citizenship to their children. You cannot build a wall…”

At which point, Trump asserted that “a lot of people think” those things could be done through an Act of Congress, and then digressed to a discussion of pregnant women crossing the border within a day of giving birth, using the derogatory term “anchor babies,” which he said was a theory supported by “some of the great legal scholars.”

Ramos then said, “Nobody is going to build a 1,900-mile wall,” to which Trump replied, “I’m a builder.” The real estate developer cum reality television entertainer referred to his “94 story buildings” over Ramos’s interjections. “What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall.” Trump then moved on to the subject of drugs coming across the border, “They have pictures… coming over the fences which are this high. There are fences which are not as tall as I am.” Trump asserted that the Border Patrol were not being allowed to stop people at the border, and when Ramos managed to ask if he was intending to call in the Army, Trump suddenly changed course and asked Ramos if he agreed that there are gangs. “Do you agree that there are some bad ones or do you think that everyone is just perfect?” Ramos attempted, still off mike, to return to his question, at which point Trump exclaimed, “I can’t deal with this.”

Then Trump suddenly switched to calling out locations salient to the Black Lives Matter movement without clearly making the connection with Latinos or the Mexican border. “They looked at gangs in Baltimore. They looked at gangs in Chicago. They looked at gangs in Ferguson.”

On Friday’s 4pm EST edition of Univisión program El gordo y la flaca, Ramos told presenters, “I hope it’s easier to talk to you than it is to talk to Donald Trump.”

Speaking in Spanish, Ramos brought up the following points:

“11 million people. Are you going to put people in stadiums?”

“75 percent of Latinos have a negative view of Donald Trump.”

When asked if he had spoken out of turn, Ramos tried to explain how press conferences function.

“Sometimes people are called, sometimes people speak out. Nobody else was talking when I asked my question. I asked my question, he didn’t like my question and he tried to cut me off.”

“This was the first time in my 30 year career as a reporter that I have been removed from a press conference.”

“It’s important to note that this is not Donald Trump’s country. It is our country.”

“If we as reporters do not take a stand and ask the difficult questions, we are not doing our job.”

When asked if he thought Trump could possibly be the next president of the United States, Ramos said he had no idea.

“It is a grave error not to take Donald Trump seriously. His ideas are very dangerous.… Many millions of Americans think the way he does, and this is what is very dangerous.

“They blame immigrants…. We need to make sure that we will not accept this sitting down…. There comes a moment to confront that.”

When asked if he believes he will ever have a sit-down interview with Trump, he said he doubted it despite the fact that Trump was “someone so outspoken.”

In conclusion, Ramos said, “16 million Latinos will be able to go to the polls in the next election and it is very important for Latinos to come out and vote.”